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By Jarrod Jones. A charlatan isn’t typically the type of person you’d want to care about. But then, Jackpot isn’t your typical comic book. AfterShock Comics’ latest series has pulled out in front of the publisher’s line as its most assured debut yet, even when it thematically has everything working against it.

I mean, who the hell wants to worry about a con artist? A grifter? A fraud? Even when that dashing George Clooney and his merry brood of gorgeous Hollywood hucksters sauntered through Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven remake the viewer kept those characters at arm’s length, lest everything we ever learned to love about them turned out to be a sham too. The Sting, featuring a never-better Paul Newman and Robert Redford hustling for their greater good, was a pleasant enough yarn, but would you invite Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker into your house to talk about your taxes? Certainly not. When the inevitability of these people’s comeuppance finally comes around, it’s not us honest folk who weep for them. And yet.

And yet we can’t look away. Ray Fawkes knows this. He understands the allure of the dodge, and a lifetime of studying the art of the con has paid dividends with Jackpot, Fawkes’ first creator-owned project since 2015’s Intersect. And while the writer of Gotham By Midnight is known for his particular brand of gothic doom, you won’t find any of it in Jackpot. This is Ray Fawkes at his most confident, and dare I say, most ebullient.

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Yes, while the tagline of Intersect was “Blood rains from the skies,” there’s only one thing lurking in the heavens above in Jackpot. It’s a god-like board of directors, and they ain’t about to coat our planet in a crimson mist. They like things just the way they are, and it seems like they’ve been at it for some time now — so why are they directing their omnipresence towards the seedy likes of Tam Malawi, Felicia Hyde or Dominique Vasko? That’s a question for a future issue. Fawkes and series artist Marco Failla take the majority of this stirring debut to introduce us to this cadre of cheats, and the effects are, to say the least, vivacious.

Despite better judgment, I like these people. That’s due to the slick, animated style of Failla’s artwork, which imbues Jackpot with a daring, power-positive edge. (There’s a fun game with this book: try to spot what Fawkes has Failla put in the backgrounds as the con reveals itself — you’ll smack yourself for missing most of it in the first read-through. So stay sharp.) What’s more, Failla’s characterizations and minimalist backgrounds are given a pop phosphorescence by colorist Stefani Rennee. Here, the skies are a brilliant blue, the explosions erupt in our faces, and in the rare moment of bloodletting, Rennee makes it feel just severe enough to remind us that there are stakes in this world without sucking the fun out of everything. This… this is a top-notch team.

There will most certainly be consequences for these con artists down the line, and they are probably going to be quite severe, knowing Ray Fawkes. But Ray plays it straight; he keeps his cards close to the vest like a good hustler ought. What comes next? I can’t wait to know. Jackpot is a helluva lot of fun.

AfterShock Comics/$3.99

Written by Ray Fawkes.

Art by Marco Failla.

Colors by Stefani Rennee.

Letters by Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt.

8 out of 10

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